M2=H2: H is for Heating System

While you might think of your heating system as the type of furnace you have, quite a few other components are just as vital to being sure you are comfortable in those frigid months of winter. Here are maintenance tips to keep all the parts of your heating system in impeccable condition.


FORCED HOT AIR SYSTEMS: One type of heating system combines a furnace with a blower to push hot air through vents throughout your home. The forced hot air furnace may be powered by gas or oil. Components of the system include a thermostat, air filter, ductwork, vents, air returns and the furnace/blower. An optional component is a humidifier.

The thermostat can often be programmed for best efficiency. You can save heating costs by programming the temperature to a lower setting at night. While the thermostat is fairly maintenance-free, you will need to change the battery on an annual basis.

Another cost-saving measure is to change the furnace filter every three months. This filter, which removes dust and debris from the air, is usually located near the blower unit, immediately before the returning air is pulled back into the blower. Before shopping for a replacement filter, be sure to write down the size of your old one. Some filters are washable rather than replaceable. Read your instruction manual for specific cleaning directions.

Your hot air system has two different types of vents. The first are vents which channel hot air from the system into your room. They usually have adjustable louvers to help direct the air. The second are vents, usually on the wall, which return air from the room to the furnace unit. The air returns have a slider to open or close the vent. In the winter, you should close the returns near the ceiling and open the returns near the floor.

If you have a humidifier, you should clean it regularly and occasionally replace the evaporative pad.

The final component of a hot air system is of course, the furnace. To keep your unit functioning well, have it serviced and cleaned annually by a qualified technician.


HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEMS: The hot water system has a furnace, either oil or gas-burning, which heats water and then pumps it through piping or tubing. This piping may be in the ceiling, walls, floors, baseboard units, or cast iron radiators. Heat is transferred first through radiating and then through convection as the hot air rises.

If you have baseboard units or radiators, you should periodically clean them of dust and debris. At some point, you may notice that the units do not radiate as well or as evenly as they once did. This could be from air buildup in the pipes. Most radiant units have bleed valves which can be opened with a “key.” First, be sure the heating system is running. Start at the radiator which is farthest away from the furnace. Hold a cup under the valve and turn the key counter-clockwise. Air will hiss out and then be followed by hot water. When the water starts, bleeding is finished. Turn the key clockwise to close the valve. Continue this process throughout your house.


ELECTRIC HEATING SYSTEMS: Electric heat is another type of radiant heat. Instead of water providing the warmth, electric heating elements do the job. This type of system is usually installed in baseboard units, and is nearly maintenance-free. Periodically, dust or vacuum the baseboard units to keep them working efficiently.


HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS: A heat pump is a combo system which provides both heating and cooling. When the weather is cold, a heat pump will draw heat from the air or ground, and transfer it to your home. In warm weather, the pump reverses the process and draws coolness from the air or ground and into your home. While this system is efficient and economical, it is not as effective in colder climates. If you live in an area which gets cold winters (below 30), you would need to have a supplemental heater added to your heat pump.

Like a hot air system, the heat pump has a filter which needs to be changed. You will also need to clean air vents and intake returns to remove dust and pet hair.

Outdoors, after you turn the power off to the unit, you should periodically wash the outside portion of the unit with a garden hose to remove grass clippings, dirt etc. Never use a pressure washer on the unit, and be careful to not damage the coils and fins inside the housing.

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